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Research Programme

Research projects currently conducted under the IAA Research Programme 2008–2010 are shown within three programmatic thrusts. Interested colleagues are invited to contact the principal investigator or project leader of a project for more information.



Cognitive disorders and vascular disease

  • Vascular risk factors and stroke. Post-discharge follow-up study of stroke in the community, to asses the effectiveness of discharge planning in terms of outcomes and access to support and rehabilitative resources. The study is assessing the strengths and inadequacies of existing primary care and medical services, rehabilitation and home-based care services as measured by patients’ access to and utilisation of these facilities and services, and their effectiveness in achieving discharge goals set by a multidisciplinary acute stroke unit at a secondary level community hospital. Based on an analysis of this information, recommendations will be made to the health ministry on a practical system of co-ordinating hospital and community based resources through improved communication so that discharge objectives are achieved. Principal investigator: Dr Linda de Villiers  
  • Inter-stroke: the importance of conventional and emerging risk factors for stroke in different regions of the world and in different ethnic groups. A multi-centre international study, in collaboration with the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University, Canada, is examining the importance of conventional and emerging risk factors for stroke in different world regions. The study is testing the hypothesis that causative factors for stroke differ regionally, and are influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Principal investigator in Cape Town: Dr Linda de Villiers.
  • Risk and causative factors for stroke and cognitive impairment in HIV infected patients. Patients presenting with HIV infection develop stroke and/or cognitive dysfunction at younger age compared to the general population. The study is examining causative factors for stroke and cognitive impairment in patients infected with the HI virus. Principal investigator: Associate Professor Marc Combrinck.
  • Development and maintenance of a database of clients assessed in the UCT/GSH Memory Clinic. The Memory Clinic, established and managed by the IAA, provides a service for comprehensive management of patients with memory disorders as well as support, counselling and education to patients and caregivers. The database is a resource for training and research projects. Project leader: Dr Sebastiana Kalula. Collaborators: Dr Linda de Villiers, Dr Kevin Thomas, Dr John Joska and Dr Leon Geffen.
  • A normative database for commonly-used neuropsychological tests in South African memory clinics, to be used to establish local normative data for neuropsychological tests. Assessment tools for cognitive impairment have been developed in Western countries with normative data derived from Western populations. It is not known whether use of these tools in the local population will derive similar results as in countries where the tools originate. The study is comparing results of assessments of cognition using an assessment tool currently used in the UCT/GSH Memory Clinic. Principal investigator: Dr Kevin Thomas.
  • The relationship between a history of traumatic life events, current cortisol levels and risk for Alzheimer’s disease. High levels of cortisol have been linked to the development of dementia. Sustained high cortisol levels are driven by chronic stress and traumatic events. The study is exploring the link between cortisol, stress and traumatic life events with the development of Alzheimer’s disease in the local older population. Principal investigator: Associate Professor Marc Combrinck. Co-investigators: Alicia Nortjie, Kathleen James, Dr Kevin Thomas and Dr Celeste de Jager (University of Oxford).
  • Vascular versus non-vascular depression in outpatients at Groote Schuur Hospital. The study is being conducted on two groups of patients aged 65 years and over who present with depression, either with underlying vascular risk factors or without underlying vascular risk factors. Depressive symptomatology and cognitive presentation is being compared in the two groups, to guide differential management approaches. Principal investigator: Helen Kinnear. Co-investigators: Dr Kevin Thomas and Associate Professor Marc Combrinck.
  • Cognition in the elderly: The role of Central Nervous System inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease. Principal investigator: Associate Professor Marc Combrinck. Co-investigator: Dr Gregory Jemmett.
  • HIV encephalopathy and cognitive impairment: The role of oxidative stress and inflammation in the pathogenesis of HIV encephalopathy/HIV associated cognitive. A neuro-cognitive, neuro-imaging and biochemical study. Principal investigator: Associate Professor Marc Combrinck.  Co-investigator: Dr Celia Mahne.

Chronic disease, disability and quality of care

  • Prevalence of and risk factors for falls in older people in an urban community in South Africa. No data exist on falls in the older population in South Africa. The community based study will establish a prevalence rate and risk factors in an urban older population in the Western Cape Province. The study results will be used to inform the development of locally relevant falls prevention programmes. Principal investigator: Dr Sebastiana Kalula.
  • Use of physical restraints in older patients in a tertiary hospital. Physical restraints are commonly used in local hospitals, but knowledge is lacking on their use in South Africa, the impact of their use on patients and health professionals, and the implementation of policy in this type of care. The study will yield information to encourage a review of relevant policy in local hospitals. Principal investigator: Dr Sebastiana Kalula.  Co-investigator: George Petros

Social and economic well-being

  • Study to Understand and Foster the Functioning and Involvement of Contributive Elders (SUFFICE). The project is being conducted in collaboration with the Stroud Center for Study of Quality of Life at Columbia University (New York, USA), International Longevity Centre–South Africa (ILCSA) and International Longevity Centre–USA (ILC–USA). A pilot study was completed in 2007. (Click here to view the pilot study report.) The project is currently being developed into a wider community-based study in collaboration with the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Division of Geriatric Medicine. Project leader: Dr Sebastiana Kalula.  Co-investigators: Drs Barry Gurland, Harrison Bloom and Bilkish Cassim, and George Petros.